A Night without a Moon
Things are so dark in the house
I fumble for the familiar,
and nothing seems in place.
I go out into the night.
The stars are out of order.
I could be back in the sertao
where our friend Jairo Dines,
encompassing the sky, sighed,
‘The stars are so spiritual.
Mortal paws cannot touch them.’
But what blinded me at first,
clears my vision. Weeping light
dries itself to a cosmic
kaleidoscope. One by one
stars catch my eye and tell me
that the time-clock of the spheres
isn’t ours. It has been put back
before we were born, and so
nothing on earth seems as dead
as a meteorite, or you.
There’s no moon tonight. The sun-
washed face of its desiccated,
lifeless body, has no place
in the future when a space
has to be found for what is.
I go back into the house.
The darkness now has shadows,
and therefore light. Not enough
yet to imprint in the future
stain glass windows of our life.
This State of Deadness
This state of deadness must be lived with
so I don’t miss the fluttered bird who flew
into the kitchen, and landed on the stew
I was throwing out for the cats, a blue-tit.
The eyes have disappeared into its hood.
It’s broken and curled, a snapped elastic band.
The yellow feathers are spattered with blood.
I’m no St Francis, but I take it in hand.
My palm becomes a cradle. And its stare
begs to tell, you’ll feel your own wounds less
by helping a small creatures in distress
to find its wings again, and fill the air.
The cats foregather for their nightly mess,
caterwauling, righteous for their potage.
I’ll give into them. They’ll go for birds less.
All will be well in my jardin sauvage
I parley with tooth and nail, and worming beak.
Each to his nature. But harsh reality
wins out in the end. As it has for you and me.
Our peace is in pieces. You’ve been dead a week.
Closing the Eyes
The ringlet on your brow that lingers
lightens stray thoughts, but gets in your eye.
Tidying your chignon with your fingers,
your look again is straight as a dye.
Eyes so bright they confuse colour.
Green or blue depending on the light.
Seeing too much makes them grow duller.
You draw lines under them every night.
Luminosity makes them go prickly.
Tear glands dry up in the tramontane.
A deadpan look is all I can see
through opaline shades that bring you balm.
Now in the light of darkness, I stare
into empty sockets. You’re not there.
I don’t want to be alone.
But there is no one to be with.
I’m a statue turned to stone
that has sunk into its plinth.
With you I could be alive,
and didn’t have to behave
like somebody else. Now I’ve
found myself a mass grave.
I could do with the company.
So entombed in the dead-air
of a granite cemetery,
I’m no one in particular.
You’re in the room, my room of lateral vision,
taken for granted, part of the décor, long shared .
But now you’re part of my life I don’t know about.
I wake from a bad dream, burdened by the shadow
that intimates your absence, and sleepwalk downstairs.
Overnight the familiar has been made strange.
I only noticed you when I turned on the light.
As clear as day I see that nothing has changed.
You are holding your own where no one else would.
My eyes focus on the floor, and it steadies me.
The carpet is a tapestry of our past life.
A Perfume Called Crime
Voice le soir charmant
Ami du criminel le crepuscule
You had a perfume with no smell
not to be traced. But I could tell
where you had been from its absence
for I’ve acquired a seventh sense
for cloaked fragrances. Nicotine
puffed, not inhaled, was your smokescreen.
I have a phial to remind me
how invisible you could be
behind a cloud when complicit
with a light-up… I stamped on it
to get rid of the evidence,
an accomplice in an offence
that nobody need know about.
Our joint benefit of the doubt
allowed the lite to filter through
the dread I always had for you.
Now a taste of it bedevils
me to believe it’s spiritual.
Not the odour of sanctity.
Real saints stink to high heaven. I’m
sensing how it used to be
when I sampled the altar-wine
before it was blessed. It could fool
me. The suspicion of alcohol.
Without you, the perfume is cheap.
I won’t be drinking it, down the hatch,
for it hides nothing that will keep
you alive. So I light a match:
the flame declares itself, a dance
you performed when found out by chance.
‘Maggie on the Harp’
Your hum accompanies our meals,
a fugitive in B flat.
It comes from nowhere, conceals
nothing, like the frank éclat
of a tuning fork, remote
but intimate, in accord
with itself and the blue note,
perfectly pitched to ward
off dissonance, while reading
the day’s news, eating your quiche.
‘It’s the music of breathing’,
you say, off-hand, and it is.
When I join in to give vent
to my feelings, something wrong
enters the hum. What is meant
to clear the air’s a swansong.
I stop. You hum on alone.
The breath of life attunes me
to its vibrant monotone.
It rings true if it’s let be.
I hum now by the ocean.
It’s more breathless than before.
A phantom tidal motion,
shifting sands on the shore,
whispers to me, The sea’s clef
is for ever middle C.
The shipwrecked, rendered tone deaf
by its roar, ‘hear eternity.’
Marco Zero Obelisk, Macapa, Brazil, 1993
In the dead centre of the world
your shadow is under foot.
Not stamped out, but in its place.
The sovereign sun has circled
the earth and is staying put
on its axis to make space
for the equatorial you.
You cut an elegant figure
in this city of hot gold
as a temporary statue.
What will prolong your tenure
is the parasol you unfold.
Enervating heat? No sweat.
For twenty-minutes all told,
upright as an egret.
standing still, you won your bet.
How you hated Canigou.
Its saddle-back summit sits
in judgement on all below,
in summer with fiery fits,
in winter encroaching snow.
The emblem of malign fate.
If the mountain helps to cure
the sick, it’s not deliberate,
says Michaux. The air is pure,
not the intention. Of old
this massif nourished the vine-
gods. Now it’s only the cold
empty tomb of the divine
flame, and holds no mystery,
presiding over a ski slope,
missing ramblers on the scree,
and patients who’re beyond hope.
It should sink into the sea.
But its rockbound slippery slope
stands firm: unbloody unbowed
sentinel of passing cloud.